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Revisiting Acoustic Revive’s RAS-14 AC Stabilizer
You do voodoo? Yo, me too too!

 

 December 2010



 


Even in Audiophilia – that very special place – Acoustic Revive’s Ken Ishiguro is not your garden-variety designer. We’ve only to consider one of this reporter’s personal favorites, the RR-77. Was Ishiguro the first to apply a German physicist’s mid-century findings about an aspect of Earth’s magnetic field to an audio peripheral? I suspect so but can’t swear to it. An RR-77 probably weights a smidgen less than a plump slice of buttered bread, which it almost resembles. Along with several other AR items, this is one inscrutable I wouldn’t dream of removing.

Indeed, several of Ishiguro’s designs surpass my understanding, but I don’t see this as a problem. In this dodge, one asks, does the item in question make a difference? Is the difference for the better? Either way, one states his opinion. (See Decline Effect farther along.)

Among Ishiguro’s unorthodoxies is a pair of RAS-14 AC Stabilizers I reported on recently feeding Nuforce Reference 18 mono amps. I’m using them with the monos on Ishiguro’s recommendation. This, I’m told, is where they’d be most effective. And yet, as a true-blue audio nerd, I cannot but wonder: if two do good – and they certainly do! – how much more will a third contribute to my canned world’s copper thicket?

(Briefly – I mention this in my first report – the RAS-14 is a passive device consisting of a short length of AR’s top speaker cable, high-quality Oyaide fittings, and the point to all this, a hardwood-capped carbon-fiber cylinder filled with mineral granules that do not come in physical contact with the current passing through.)

Why we’re all standing about in reverential silence
A third RAS-14 has been added to the mix. It feeds an Integris CDP, the “P” in this instance indicating preamp (see AurumAcoustics.com). Before I share my thoughts, it might be helpful to list the goodies remaining in place. Nothing has been added or removed, nor have names been changed to protect the innocent.

• Oyaide duplex outlets. The listening room is directly above our ancient cellar, where I’ve done nothing special beyond having our electrician create four dedicated lines for the audio system, two of which are currently in use. (Currently. Get it?)

• Nordost Vishnu and Brahma power cables and BlackNoise Extreme and 2500 line filters. (NuForce distributes this Italian import.)

• Nordost Valhalla balanced interconnects.

• AudioQuest Ground Controls for the amps and CDP, total of three.

• Acoustic Revive quartz-based underboards for the stacked monos, CDP and line filters.

• The abovementioned Acoustic Revive low-frequency pulse generator, along with AR’s disc demagnetizer and negative-ion generator.

• NuForce Magic Cubes and speaker cables.
• And of course the two original Acoustic Revive AC Stabilizers.

• Finally, four wall-hung Acoustic Revive room-treatment panels behind the low cabinet on which the amps and CDP perch. The line filters are on the floor.

In my first RAS-14 report I mention the short burn-in time the Stabilizer appears to require. While that’s true, since I submitted my comments I detected an uptick in performance. All to the good. The third Stabilizer serves the Integris CDP, which remains in standby when the display is off. In the matter of green, while the Integris’s standby mode draws too little fuel to mark your reporter as a carbon bigfoot, the Stabilizer matures round the clock. In any event, based on what I was hearing, I made my first comparisons sooner than I thought I would.

For evaluation purposes, I prefer recordings I’ve been playing recently. Nothing’s quite as reliable as familiarity. I also favor uncomplicated sounds wherein differences are more obvious.

He listens to what?!
Morton Feldman (1926-1987), my favorite American composer, poked a stick in conventionality’s eye with music that rarely shouts. His challenged the establishment with near-repetitive modules of remarkable duration. Feldman’s my early-morning companion. I normally roll out of the sack a couple of hours before my wife, come downstairs, fire up the amps, turn on the negative-ion generator – it needs a good ten-minute warm-up – feed the French press and return to the listening room, coffee mug in hand, to enjoy recordings least likely to disturb Best Beloved’s repose.

Dearest reader mine, our tastes likely differ. Doesn’t matter – the sound’s the thing. Any one of the five CDs comprising Feldman’s six-hour-plus Second String Quartet of 1983 can transport me to a state I rarely revisit before the following morning. A great recording, mode 112, features the Flux Quartet: Tom Chiu, Cornelius Dufallo, violins; Kenji Bunch, viola; Darrett Adkins, cello. David Walters, Brian Brandt and Tom Chiu produced these sessions in Wesleyan University’s Crowell Hall in October, 2001, with David Walters as recording engineer. SQ2 is also available as a single DVD.

I reinforced my impressions with the fourth of Haydn’s Op.76 string quartets, likewise well recorded: Tacet 182, with the Auryn Quartet (Matthias Lingenfelder, Jens Oppermann, violins; Stewart Eaton, viola; Andreas Arndt, cello). I’ve mentioned these excellent Auryn performances before. The producer-engineer, Andreas Spreer, uses old Neumann mics to brilliant effect.

On, then, to difference
In the matter of musical textures, the third RAS-14 proves itself to be a potent contributor. In both tests, its removal diminished my sense of a quality I can best describe as luminosity. In Feldman’s SQ2, a life-giving radiance envelops the strings with a delicacy I relish. In the rather meatier Haydn quartet, I noticed a similar sense of heightened texture, a term I’ve been using lately to describe several effective tweaks – so I guess that’s what I most highly prize.

The Decline Effect: the sometime fly in the ointment
A New Yorker article in the December 13, 2010 issue discusses strange goings on in the rarefied world of pure science. People have been discovering that the replicability of objective, carefully controlled experiments can taper off with repetition. What measured as 95% certain becomes, say, 80% certain, with further reductions down the line, sometimes to the point of indistinguishability. Jonah Lehrer’s “The Truth Wears Off” is a fascinating read. For me, the Decline Effect’s applicability extends beyond Lab-Coat Land.

It’s been my impression – my unscientific, subjective impression – that the phenomenon also obtains in the likewise rarefied world of Audiophilia. Over the course of however many months the ‹berSpiel Ferkaktakon’s beneficence has tapered off to nothing much. You swore you heard it. Now you’re not sure. Gnashing of teeth, consternation. Seriously, it’s happened to me too often to question. Conversely, other perceptions remain in place. I’ve been living with good two-channel sound long enough to know that, however mysterious its welcome ways, the RAS-14 is and will probably remain the real and persistent deal.

The two string-quartet experiments are as close to an objective procedure as I’m capable of getting. Further listening, absent now-it’s-in-now-it’s-out comparisons, tell me that the system benefits in no small way from the third Stabilizer’s addition. As but one example, Code, a quirky, march-like, avant-jazz disc with the Maarten Altena Ensemble (seven instrumentalists, female vocalist), delivered texture, dynamics, and an beautifully distributed image the quality of which surpassed what I recall of earlier playings (hatART 6094, released in 1991). This holds true for enough discs for the point to be made. For myself, I mean. I’ll spare you a recitation of what I played and noticed. Suffice that No. 3 seems to me as important an addition Nos. 1 and 2. The wealthiest among you might consider planting an RAS-14 in all your IEC inlets.

If the Decline Effect kicks in I’ll let you know.


Second Opinion on the RAS-14 AC Stabilizer: Silverton's Dead On!

Yours truly must hereby concur with Mike Silverton's sonic observations on this latest product from the fertile mind of Ken Ishiguro - aka The Wizard of Odd! Having had the rare opportunity to visit Ishiguro's home located in Isesaki, Japan (about 100 miles north of Tokyo, in the beautiful and mountainous Gunma Prefecture), I only have the highest respect for this gifted and talented designer. Isesaki's famous for its production of raw silk so I was not surprised when shown some of his products being built around pure silk threads. Ishiguro spares no expense it seems. I also visited about a half-dozen other factories where different AR products are manufactured. Most impressive was when I saw how Ishiguro mixed his AC noise-busting concoction of powdered quartz, tourmaline and green carborundum into a fast-drying putty. This concoction, says The Wizard of Odd is what is used internally in his world-class Acoustic Revive RTP-2, 4 and 6 series AC conditioners respectively. Each won our unanimous votes over the past two years as the best available in the here and now.

So, if it works...don't fix it.

Ishiguro won't divulge what's in his newest RAS-14 AC Stabilizer. Hmm, I can't imagine him using a different mix. But with Ishiguro anything's possible. So I asked if I could have a listen and requested four of RAS-14s. In short notice, I had them delivered to my doorstep via US Postal mail. Designed strictly as an add-on to co-exist between your AC cable and component, I hooked  the RAS-14s between their own wonderful sounding Power Reference AC cords into four components: Reimyo's   CDT-777 transport and DAP-999EX DAC combo and a pair of Red Dragon M-500 mono amps.

Initially, the sound was hard, thick, less transparent and grittier but this was my fault because I didn't allow for burn-in (I spell patience N...O...W!). I gave it a good week and over 100-hours before going back to do any serious listening. Burn-in is a bitch if not careful. Even after a week, I wasn't convinced my system improved or could hear anything worthwhile via the RAS-14s. I came back a couple of days later at around the 150-hour mark and found the transparency had not only returned but seemed to elicit a clearer window into the music. Depth and three-dimensionality most certainly improved. Cymbals took on a sweeter and more shimmery life-like feel. The music overall sounded more delicate and fluid. Most surprisingly, the bass from my beloved little Revolver Music 3 monitors appeared to gain a tad more oomph as a result of their improved speed and tightness.

Caveats

By the 250-hour mark, I realized a great paradox: the system sounded improved...but lost a little something. In nearly every situation where I placed a tweak in my system as an add-on whether between a component, cable or on the loudspeaker itself, a loss of sparkle is the result - sooner or later.  I'm just fortunate to have observed this ever-small (but important) decreased sense of bloom so fast especially amongst all the wonderful sonic improvements the RAS-14s bestowed upon my rig. Heck, the system could still very well be continuing to burn-in and ultimately the bloom might return (if it does I'll let you know). Experience tells me otherwise. Again, the slight loss of bloom is negligible and could be part of my paranoid thinking (whenever I place anything in between me and my music). Bottom line, Mike Silverton didn't experience any perceived loss of detail or bloom while enjoying the same level and type of sonic improvements I also am experiencing. As in most things worthy of recommendation, I find the RAS-14s sonic strengths far outweigh this minor shortcoming.

Lastly, if you're asking if I would recommend the AC RAS-14s? Unhesitatingly, the answer would be YES. They do far more for my musical appreciation and I strongly believe my system has improved by virtue of their performance. Nothing's perfect. We live in an imperfect world. Excellence is the ideal goal for this music lover and the Acoustic Revive RAS-14 qualifies as just that. My 2010 Publisher's Choice Most Wanted Component

Product Information:

Acoustic Revive: RAS-14 AC Stabilizer,
Price: $1095.
Website: www.acoustic-revive.com
Email y-hontani@museonpro.com
US Distributor:
The Lotus Group
Website: www.lotusgroupusa.com
Email: info@lotusgroupusa.com




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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